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Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong

Human trafficking victim wins case against Hong Kong authorities

Pakistani who was tricked into forced labour says city lacks legislative framework to prevent such crimes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 8:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 10:46pm

A Pakistani who has been ruled to be a victim of human trafficking for forced labour says he still lives in constant fear despite recently winning a legal battle against local authorities for ignoring his complaints.

The South Asian, referred to as “Zn” to protect his identity, told a group of reporters after the ruling that he believed his former employer, who was said to have cajoled him into taking up employment in the city, would retaliate for the publicising of the incident.

“They are very powerful people,” he said through an interpreter, referring to his former employer’s family.

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“[My former employer] still threatened me,” he claimed. “He threatened to hurt my family [in Pakistan].”

The 32-year-old Pakistani said he did not believe local police could provide the protection he needed.

Zn earlier sued the Immigration Department, police force and the Labour Department for ignoring his complaints about being a victim of human trafficking.

The South Asian was tricked into coming to the city under a valid domestic helper visa and then placed into forced labour, which has yet to be made a criminal offence.

He worked in Hong Kong between 2007 and 2010, and was subjected to beatings, threats and endless work under a boss who never paid him.

He testified in court that he was sent home at the end of his tenure, but later found his way back to the city illegally to pursue his case with authorities.

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After he served six months in jail for illegal entry into the city, Zn sued the authorities for ignoring his complaints and for failing in their obligations as stated in the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance. He argued the city lacked a legislative framework to prevent human trafficking.

Handing down his decision last week, Mr Justice Kevin Zervos said while Hong Kong had laws that prohibit certain acts under the umbrella of human trafficking – from prostitution to assault – it did not have legislation targeting human trafficking itself.

“It seems to me that trafficking a person for forced or compulsory labour is within the ambit of criminal liability,” the judge stated.

Zn told reporters he hoped no more people would suffer his fate.

Recounting his ordeal, the Pakistani said his former employer had repeatedly beaten him and thrown various objects, such as marble balls and a six-inch long stapler, at him.

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He said he had felt so helpless when one department after another in Hong Kong had shown him the door.

“I have no confidence in the law enforcement agencies,” Zn said.

He thanked his lawyer Patricia Ho, who said that this was the city’s first ever judicial review on human trafficking.

At press time, the government has not commented on the case.

Zn said he would stay on with his local wife, whom he met four years ago, alongside his young daughter, to continue his bid to recoup his unpaid wages.